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Entries in Family (14)


Go ask Alyce

hatter.jpgDid you know Alyce Hinton? Me neither. Apparently she died last year. She was my great Aunt. The sister of G.W. Ford. My paternal grandfather. A man I also never knew. He and my grandmother, Yin Yin, split the sheets when my father was a wee lad. She remarried, and it was bad form to ever mention him. (Aren’t families fun!)

How did I find this? A probate investigator called Friday. Aunt Alyce died with no surviving heirs. So they’re tracking down relatives to settle her estate. I’ve no idea what the amount might be, or how many other relatives will be found. But hey, they found me, and I’m practically in the Witness Protection Program.

Now here’s the weird part. I’ve been dying to know anything about G.W. Ford––a Chinese immigrant, given the name Ford through adoption. That’s pretty much all I know. I’ve searched the Web. Explored genealogical databases. Bubkis. I’d given up. So last week I decided I’d just fictionalize his story. Fill in the blanks––which are legion. I even sketched out a thumbnail outline. Just for fun.

Then I get the call on Friday.  A FedEx package Saturday.  And more on the way.
I keep looking around for Rod Serling. It's lonely here in the Twilight Zone.

Bizarre coincidence? Fate blowing in my ear? My delusional nature overriding the medication? Do strange coincidences ever inspire you?


Dysfunction runs in the family

Dysfunction.jpgI just finished Reservation Blues. Sherman Alexie, does indeed, rock. His writing shimmers with bittersweet touches of reality–– because he writes fiction based on personal experiences.

With that in mind, what are the stories in your life that you want told? I think every family has character-driven dramas and mysteries worth exploring.

Here are a few skeletons from my familial closet:

1) My biological grandfather was born in China and adopted by Western missionaries. He was given the name George William Ford when he arrived in America. He married my Grandmother (Yin Yin), had one son, and died shortly after. Yin Yin remarried and would never speak of him. And nobody else did either. I don’t know his real name or how he died. I sense that he was a pretty bad guy. It makes for awkward Thanksgiving dinner conversations.

2) I have a cousin in Mainland China that became pregnant for a third time. A big no-no. The penalty was twice her annual salary and an abortion injection. Instead, she had the baby in secret with a midwife––then left the baby girl on the steps of an orphanage. An auntie, who lives in Seattle, arranged to adopt the baby. She paid $20k in adoption fees (and bribes) only to arrive in China for the final pick-up and find the baby missing. She’d been given to another family a week before.

3) My Great Uncle Tommy was sold to another family in China. Not adopted out. Sold. Cha-ching. His family was indescribably poor. His mother later immigrated to the U.S. where she had six other children. Her youngest son, Francis joined the U.S. army before WWII and was a clerk assigned to an air unit in China. It was there that he met a Chinese air force colonel––his older brother. The one sold decades earlier. It took 30 years and a mountain of paperwork, but that retired colonel was finally allowed to travel to the U.S.––to see the rest of his family. I met him in 1979, when I was twelve.

Stories like these are why I love the gritty power of non-fiction. After all, who can’t relate to a dysfunctional family?

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